- Sir Mene Pangalos, a boss at AstraZeneca, said it aims to be ready by autumn
- The new jab will likely be made to target mutation on the South Africa variant
- Professor Andrew Pollard said it would be quicker to make than the first jabOxford University and AstraZeneca plan to have a new Covid vaccine ready by the autumn to tackle new variants of the coronavirus, they confirmed today.
Growing evidence suggests that a mutation first found in the South African variant of the virus, and now cropping up elsewhere, can reduce how well current vaccines work because it changes the shape of the spike protein that the jabs target.
And to overcome this, jab manufacturers say they are already working on updating their vaccines because they need to be extremely specific to offer the best form of protection.The Oxford/AstraZeneca team, makers of one of the world's most advanced vaccines so far, say they will have their adapted version ready and manufactured before the end of 2021.
Oxford's Professor Andrew Pollard, who is leading studies of the jab, said it would be a 'short process' compared to making the original vaccine from scratch.
The update could be used either as a booster for people who have already had a different vaccine or it could be used on its own for those who are still unvaccinated.
AstraZeneca's executive vice-president, Sir Mene Pangalos, said today: 'We're very much aiming to have something ready by the autumn this year.'
The announcement comes after the team got a huge boost to their jab development from a study published last night that suggested it can cut transmission by up to two thirds and a single dose can prevent 76 per cent of severe illnesses for three months, with that rising to 82 per cent after the second dose.
In another ray of hope from Oxford's research, Dr Andrew Pollard — one of the lead Oxford researchers — said he is confident the current jabs will still prevent severe Covid in people who get infected with mutated variants of the virus.
He admitted the South African strain 'will have a big impact on the immune response from all the vaccines', suggesting the jab may not be as effective in curbing spread. But he says it is possible that it will morph to become like other coronaviruses that just cause a common cold or 'mild' infections.